When you are reading here whether you found me intentionally or accidently, please take time to leave a comment and let me know where you are and what you are thinking. I love feed back. Vondi

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Gabriel Felix

Gabriel Felix Howe
February, 1997-July 7, 2014 


I don’t have words for the emptiness.  Gabriel Felix has ceased from his suffering.  Yesterday was a hard day for me.  Gable wasn’t walking except for a few feet then he would slowly collapse onto his side. He stopped eating Sunday and would only drink water.  Yesterday he would stand over the bowl and lap a few times then look at it as he slowly slid down to his belly. 
I carried him with me when I went any place because otherwise he still tried to follow the pattern of years and follow me.  Wherever I went he was always with me.  If I went to the kitchen, he was there. If I sat in the den he was beside me or on my lap.  If I sat on the deck, he was right there lying in the sun.  For meals, he was beside me.  If I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night he got out of bed and went with me.   These past days, he was too weak to follow me all the way but he’d go as far as he could and collapse until he’d regained his strength.  So I carried him.
For the last three days he couldn’t walk out in the yard to potty.  I would carry him out and put him down on the ground.   He would stagger a few feet and lay down or potty then stagger a bit farther.  The last night he was with me, he wanted out at 4:00 in the morning.  I carried him out and sat on the deck with him until he’d walked around a bit and fell in the grass.  He liked laying in the grass.   Finally he was all the way to the fence and could go no farther.  Using my phone light I trekked across the yard in my bare feet and nightgown in the dark to pick him up and carry him in.
And that was OK because I loved him.
The vet, when he saw him, knew immediately from the odor that Gable had kidney failure. He said it was time to end the suffering.  And I knew that.  It is just that I’ll miss him so much.
Last night I woke up in a little panic twice thinking I had slept past the time when I needed to take him out. The first time I was about to get up before I realized he was gone. The next time it was storming and before I was entirely awake I thought he would get wet and cold.   Then I looked across at the empty bed and remembered he was gone.
It was strange this morning, letting only three dogs out.  And when they came back in it took a minute to remember that I didn’t need to look for Gabriel because he wasn’t there
For almost seventeen years, if he had a choice, he was with me—on my lap, standing in my shadow, lying down beside my chair at dinner, following me when I walked laps around the yard.  He went to New Mexico with me until he was too old to make the trip comfortably. 
When he was a puppy he went to day care with me.  He was so cute and even his toys were tiny.  The staff would bring him little balls and stuffed animals even though he already had several; the floor of my office was littered with puppy toys.   Kids and staff vied for the chance to take him out to potty.  Or just take him for a walk.  Peggy Miller took him out with her for a smoke break, the children would come and ask if he could go to the playground with them.   Sometimes I had to say that he’d just been out and had to rest. 
All sorts of events went through Gable’s life, but he was content as long as he was with me.
And now my life goes on without him. 
Gabriel, I’ll miss you.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Lonely Abandoned Ranch

On the day we visited the Rocky Canyon we passed through an abandoned ranch site.  I’m sure the property belongs to someone; at least someone has re-built the windmill fairly recently.  The watering trough is full and the whole area has cattle tracks and cow piles around it. 
It was another one of those sites that carried a sense of history. 
There was a rock house that was tumbling down. From a distance it was nearly invisible among the brush and rocky landscape.  At one time it was a pretty decent home for the times.  Laid up neatly of stone, there were two decent sized rooms with sizable beams that must have been hauled a long ways to make the roof.  It didn’t appear to have had a board floor, but that might have been covered by years of blowing sand and trash sifting over it.

(Here's a closer picture in case you can't see the house.)

It looked like another pile of rocks if you didn't know what you were looking at.

The home site had once had sizable cottonwoods growing around it but now they were dead. Some stretched along the ground; other still stood offering skeletal arms to the sky and weather.  All around now brush crowded the walls. 

Across the way in front of the house there was a corral.  It was built with a combination of the old close-set-stake fencing, wooden post and rails and woven wire.  I think it had probably been used more recently than the house.  It might have been able to contain my mom’s placid milk cow, but I’m not sure any animal with more energy would have had much difficulty getting through it.
The ranch site stood in the center of a bowl surrounded by ridges and cliffs.  We arrived there after a long bumpy drive across the desert through sage and clump grass.  In the middle of the bowl a hundred (maybe) yards behind the house was a huge boulder that had broken free of the cliff off to the right.  And when I say huge, I mean huge!  It was larger and much taller than the house.

We parked the truck and walked around the site for a while.  It was evident the property had been intentionally abandoned.  There were no articles of living remaining in or around the house.  The corral had been maintained but there was no other evidence of use. 
Once again I was awed by the courage of the men and women who lived here.  We had driven probably two or three hours across country in a TRUCK from the nearest paved road.  The nearest town was probably an hour, hour and a half from the turn-off.  For a man on a horse it must have been most of a day to the nearest town.  With a wagon it would have been two days.  You know those cowboy movies where Pa hitches up the wagon and trots in to town and back by noon?  Well it didn’t happen here!  I doubt I we would have made the trip and back in the truck before noon.
 All of these things go to demonstrate how very fleeting life is.  Men build in wood and stone as permanently as they know how, but nothing lasts.  And yet man persists in believing his works are supreme. 
Who do we think we are anyway, when our works are so easily destroyed?
"When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; 4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?  5For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour  Ps 8:3-4

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Graves.

As we traveled and hiked through out of the way places in  the desert we have come across several graves.  These are always strangely sad and lonely for me to look at.  
I told you about the ones we found in the ghost town.  They were cheerless  and redolent with history,  but the most heartbreaking ones for me were the single ones in the middle of no where.   They were momentos of someone who was loved or at least cared for in some way, but they were all alone--just piles of stone in an oval heap. 
For some the pile remained.  For others the heap of stones had collapsed in on themselves.  And for others, unless you knew the pattern, you might not have suspected it had once been a grave.  Usually for these all that remained was the outer ring of stones.  It depended on how the body had been buried.  Those where the body had simply been wrapped in a blanket, or perhaps just put in the ground, hadn't collapsed much as the body decayed and the sand sifted through the spaces remaining

For those which had  been buried in a 'coffin' or a box had much more space under the ground.  As the box decayed and broke, the desert sands and the rock on top fell into the emptiness over the body.  When that space was filled, it caused a the stones and dirt on the surface to  sink.  Only the ring of stones around the grave were still apparent.. 
I guess what was sadder still was the fact than no indication of whose remains were buried there could be seen.  We make a production today of gravestones and monuments; I suppose at sometime someone may have placed a marker over these lonely graves, but time has worn away any marking scratched on stone and faded any words made on wooden crosses or sticks.  We never found a cross at any of the ones we saw, although I'm sure at least a few would have had a cross, given the time period.  But the desert wind and blown sand desroyed them over the years. 
I couldn't help but think of the brave men and women who had taken their courage in their hands and set out to make a  live in this country.   As much as I love it I don't know if I would have that kind o courage.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Ghost Town.

This trip we went back to southern New Mexico.  Pat wanted to see that Rocky Canyon.  Notah and Kerra had been trying to figure out the actual name of the canyon. It was deep and long and they thought sure it should have a name.  They came up with two, but I know the one was wrong.  I don't know about the other..

We went in the way we had come out last week.  It was shorter than the other way.  We turned off the highway onto the graded road.  We turned off the graded road onto a two tire track.  A little ways along that track, Pat thought he saw a grave and wanted to stop so he could look at it.

We're always ready to 'stop and  look.'  Good thing we did.

After they'd walked around for a while I decided the ground was even enough that I'd have no trouble walking so I got out too. I'm glad I did.

There was a grave there.  In fact there were several.  Pat had discovered an old, old graveyard.  A rough path 'paved with a variety of flat stones, had once led among them.  The path was only visible after we'd found the graves. Then it was obvious the stones scattered here and there had once led through the graveyard.   There were no markers remaining, only heaps of stone or sometimes circles of stone surrounding a sunken pile of others.
Beyond the grave yard was the remains of an old well, It had been filled in long before, but the circle of the wall remained.  To the side were three metal rings of the sort once used to bind barrels and buckets.   Like these. 


The rings were small, about 12 inches in diameter, so the bucket or barrel must have been of a size easily carried when filled with water.  The wood had long since rotted away, only the rings remained.

That's all that remained besides tumbleweed and some windblown trash.

Across the road, (I didn't go over because my 'walking around time' was over.)  Kerra found the foundations of houses.  There had e vidently been a small town there that had remained long enough that they needed a cemetary.  I suppose there were eight or ten graves that we saw.  There may have been more scattered among the brush.

It's poignant to think that this is just one of many towns scattered throughout the southwest.  I wondered who the people were who had lived here.  Why did they start a town here in, seemingly, the middle of nowhere.  What did they do for a living?  Did they arrive intentionally or was it a last ditch choice? Did they all leave at once? Or did the town just slowly die?  Or did the well go dry and force them to leave? 

It made me think of the poem by Shelley:  "Nothing beside remains. Round the decay . . .  boundless and bare  The lone and level sands stretch far away.'      

That was the feeling there beside that lonely lost town.    

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Rocky Canyon

I always come back and say, "I wish I had taken pictures."  But on this trip I was too busy holding on to take pictures. 
Let me say first, that if I EVER have an ocassion to buy a pickup truck (at almost seventy and on a limited income)  I will buy a Dodge Ram.  Notah's four wheel drive Ram is amazing.  He takes that truck to the wildest places--places where the incline is so steep I doubted if we could go down, never mind back up.  We have climbed mountains and gone down canyons while I held on for dear life and my kids laughed at me!  One day I came home and my arm was aching from holding the grab bar so tightly for eight hours.
I looked through my photos for a picture of it, but I couldn't find any.  Here's as close as i can come....
That's pretty good. I think Notah's has bigger tires... Don't hold me to the year, etc... I just pulled this of the 'net.
That said I can go on with this account.   
On Saturday we took 25 south past Socorro and then turned off.  I don't keep track of routes and turns.  I just ride.  We turned and turned again while Notah and Kerra discussed where to go and how to get there.   
We followed another one of Notah's 'here's the road, it goes this way' kind of 'roads'.  It led across a couple flats and up a ridge, around another slope and down into a canyon.  It was a beautiful ride. 
Then we started up a canyon. To be honest there were tracks, but I'm not sure what made them.  Not a normal pickup, that's for sure.  The way led up a gorgeous canyon,  In places the rock wall went straight up and there was just room for the truck at the bottom.  At different times rain sent wat er rushing through it. Thank goodness there was none today, although in a couple place we looked off to the side and saw little streams or pools.   
I don't have words to describe it but it went on and on. A couple times I thought Notah would surely turn around, but no, he said we could  make it...  And we did.   
In some places the rocks came right down to the road with a bit of scrub brush along the base. In others pines and juniper marched right down the steep slope.  A couple times Notah stopped and debated which fork to take.  I don't believe he made the wrong choice at any time, but twice I remember looking back at what had seemed a good way to go. Both of those times I saw that the way was blocked at the end by a pile of rocks.  Notah seems to have an instinct for choosing the 'road.' 
We drove up that long canyon and finally climbed up to a ridge.  And it was worth the trip! We stopped and looked around for a while.  The dogs jumped down.  I think we only took Bella and Thain on that trip.  Babycake tends to get in too much trouble.  Mia was a rescue picked up from under a cattle guard.  She is afraid to get in a vehicle.  I think she relates it to being dumped along the road and starving for several days before Kerra coaxed her out.  (Kerra will pick up any lost or abandoned dog. I think they have collected four or five to date.  Three went to good homes. Two ((Mia and Babycake)) still live with them.) 
To go on,  Bella and Thain jumped out to run around.  The family spread out in different directions.  I held down the fort at the truck.  I mean, well, we wouldn't want anybody to steal it while everyone was gone!   Seth climbed along the smooth rocks opposite the truck.  Notah and Kerra walked across the wash and went along the slope on the other side.  They were gone several minutes  a half hour maybe.  
Here's the exciting part.  When they came back I found out Seth had seen a...ready for it...A WOLF!   He had gone up that smooth slope of rock he was on and hiked around behind it.  In the distance above him he'd seen a 'dog' trotting along the ridge.  Thinking it was Thain he'd called it but the dog ignored him.  He called across to his mom and dad asking if Thain was with them.   They whistled and Thain popped up right there between them...  Seth had seen a wolf.  
Now, remember a few weeks ago when I'd seen that track?   Yep.  Turns out there are wolves in that part of the mountains.  There has been a program introducing Mexican Gray Wolves back into the southwest. (Check here for a video and more info.  http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/   I don't post exactly where we are in these blogs.  Enough to say that it wasn't the Apache Nat'l Forest.  There have been releases in NM, too.  And no one but Notah needs to know where we were.)
The neatest thing is that I really did see a wolf track!  WOW.
We got back in the truck and went down in that wash I mentioned.  It turned into another canyon.   After winding up that one, just as rough and rocky as the first,  Notah decided we needed to turn around.  It was getting on toward evening and we weren't sure how far it would be to the next paved road.  He backed up until he found a place that would let him turn around.  (A space the size of a postage stamp in my estimation!)
As dark was coming on we followed the original route back out.   On the hillside, as we made out way out the first canyon, there was a herd of deer, five or six, climbing the slope up from the bottom.  Shortly after that two elk were trekking up the canyon slope too.  It was the first time I'd ever seen elk in the wild! 
None of the animals seemed at all worried about the big red truck disturbing the peace.  The paused and looked at it then went on up the hill.
It was dark the time we were back on the road--by a diffferent route let me say.  Notah said, 'this will take us out and drove off on another ffork.  Sure enough it led to a graded road that led to the highway.   How's he do that? 
Must be generations of Navajo ancestors finding their way through their homeland.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sitting on a canyon side in the midst of the mountains.

We're the only people for eight or ten miles along a two tire track that wandered through the desert, sometimes almost disappearing among the rocks and sage brush.  Most people wouldn't even call it a road.  But it brought us far from people.

It is so quiet I can hear myself think. The only sound is the buzz of two flies investigating the red monster of the truck.  Even the wind is so gentle I have to concentrate to hear the  quiet shusshing  Far, far over head, so high I can't even see it in the clear blue a plane passes with a sound so faint it is only a distant drone instead of the usual roar. If I were in town I would never hear it, but here the silence is so deep the sound travels from the vault of the sky.

I can see across the canyon to the rock ledges on the opposite wall.  The are so even and straight it is easy to imagine they are the remains of the cities of ancient giants--the monster gods of the pueblo and Navajo, the kachina and the yei. I know these formations were created by tectonic forces and the effects of wind and water on the stone, but they look as though some huge hand stacked them like children's toys or carved them as enduring sculptures.  In the forty years since I first saw New Mexico they have never  ceased to amaze me.

Notah, Kerra and Seth are hiking on the canyon slope behind me.  They will bring me back strange rocks or broken shards of a pot abandoned by some roving gatherer or, if Kerra's sharp eyes spot it, a broken arrow point or a flake where a paeolithic hunter stopped to make a quick blade to dispatch his kill.  Ocassionally they run across tumbled villages or house sites with the accompanying debris of the people who lived there.  They take a couple photos to send me and mark them in their memory.  More often though their finds are simply scattered across the desert. I wish I were thirty years younger and a hundred pounds lighter so I could climb with them.  But at least my knees work and I can walk in the desert again.

A few minutes ago I walked around the flatter area here where the truck is parked.  The clumps of old juniper trees exude an resiny fragrance if I brush them and I walked among clumps of bunchgrass and old tumblweed skeletons. The ground was sandy with shale-like rocks here and there.  

A ways down from where we parked I found the  old remains of a camp fire.  The ashes were beaten into the ground by rain and weather; the couple of burnt sticks were half buried in the sand.  Someone else a long time ago had set here and maybe enjoyed looking out across the open space as they sloped away before them. I could imagine a lot of different scenarios about the circumstances that brought someone to this spot.

When I walked back to the truck I came upon a clear dog track in a bit of open ground. It was huge. almost as large as my palm. (Keep in mind, my hands aren't very big, but still)   I smiled at first,  thinking Bella had left her mark in this place.  Then I realized that it wasn't a new track. It was hard, pressed into mud sometime past! 

My first thought was: wolf.  Then I laughed at my imagination.  I'd spent too long wandering around making up stories about wide spaces and campfires. 

I came back and sat down.

Now I'm eating my banana and playing with my kindle.  Bella and Thain are back from their jaunt with the family so I guess they'll soon be back.